New Middle Man

Tavares Gooden will be playing middle linebacker for the first time on Saturday. Read on to find out why he got the nod over Darryl Sharpton, why the coaches moved him inside, and to see what else is happening at the linebacker position...

With Romeo Davis and Glenn Cook out with injuries right now, most people thought Darryl Sharpton would be named the starting middle linebacker heading into the season opener.

That didn't happen. Instead, senior Tavares Gooden got the nod. Randy Shannon talked about that decision.

"Tavares Gooden has been playing well," Shannon said. "He's been competing. He's gone 18 (plus) straight without missing a practice. He's been physical and learning. He said, 'Coach, it was easy'. I asked why and he said because he's been around here long enough. The oldest guy will always move in this defense and he's the oldest right now."

Sharpton had his chances to win the job during fall camp but injuries played a key role in the final decision.

"We have Sharpton," Shannon said. "He's been nicked up and out most of the camp. He's gonna play and he knows it."

While Gooden will start out playing in the middle, inexperience there could become a factor. If so, Sharpton will be right there waiting for his opportunity.

"If Darryl comes out with 15 tackles, two sacks, an interception, a caused fumble, and a fumble recovery and he's not a starter (next week), you'll look at me like I'm crazy," Shannon said.

Sharpton finished last season with 45 total tackles, tops among all returning linebackers. Gooden is hoping to return to the form he showed as a freshman back in 2003. Injuries have slowed him down the last few seasons.

Colin McCarthy will start on the strongside and Spencer Adkins will start on the weakside.

"They've been playing well," Shannon said. "(Of the three starters,) two of them play the same position. We have to get the best three on the field."

Kylan Robinson (weakside), Eric Houston (strong), and Allen Bailey (middle) are also competing for playing time as primary backups right now. Shannon talked about what it'll take for them to get on the field more.

"For you to take somebody's position, you gotta go above and beyond," he said. "(You don't) wanna stay the same and wait your turn."

It's been a very quiet fall camp for reserve linebacker Demetri Stewart, the only healthy linebacker on the roster not listed on the current depth chart.

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